A story you are sure to have missed, Mike Sherman, yes, THAT guy, is back in Green Bay today to give the keynote speech at the annual A Day for Men conference held at St. Norbert’s Abbey in De Pere.
Before we get to that, first let me admit that I am stunned that a liberal arts college, even a private Christian one, would think enough of men to actually bother giving them their own conference. True, males do manage to make up 41% of the student body, which is a robust figure when compared across town where the UWGB campus boasts a 65% to 35% female-to-male ratio. Yes, to us guys, that may sound like the ideal learning environment, and as a man that somewhat recently rolled through UWGB, let me say that if you are a single male and can not get laid at UWGB, then I advise you consider the priesthood.
However, as a married man with children who happen to be boys, I do find it disconcerting that fewer and fewer boys are going to college, and that certainly in comparison to the reaction if the numbers were reversed, as a society, no one seems to give a shit. I haven’t verified it, but the rumor is that the weekend conference at UWGB is titled Men: The World Needs Ditch Diggers Too.
Anyway, Mike Sherman’s speech to 170 men at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality will likely focus on his path through life and how his faith helped guide him. It is highly unlikely he will include insights into how to destroy the Lambeau Field mystique or an NFL roster, but if he did, he probably could not find a more forgiving crowd in Green Bay.
To his credit, Sherman was both classy and magnanimous in a lengthy interview with Todd McMahon (no relation to Monty?) on Friday. He was generous in both his feelings towards Green Bay and towards everyone at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, including the man who unceremoniously fired him- Ted Thompson.
Sherman’s gracious and selfless tone stands in stark contrast to his lasting backroom reputation within the Packer offices as being stand-offish and arrogant. I have heard from former employees at 1265 Lombardi that the reign of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy has been a welcome change from Sherman’s tenure. Contradictory to the impression some fans have, people inside the organization have described Thompson and McCarthy as ordinary, laid back guys who have been known to strike up a conversation with anyone that happens to ride the elevator with them, whether they be a board member or a temporary employee.
Regardless, such is office innuendo. Perhaps Sherman has learned some humility since then, being fired by Joe Philbin might do that to you.
In a spirit of fairness to Mike Sherman upon his return to Titletown, let’s recall the highlights and the lowlights of his time as the original heir to Ron Wolf. In fact, since Sherman was so nice to us, I’ll even start with his lowlights so we can finish with the good news.
January 4th, 2003 – Atlanta Falcons 27, Green Bay Packers 7
When you make the wrong kind of history for a franchise that has been around since 1919, that has to be the ultimate lowlight. From the inception of the NFL playoffs in 1933 until this game, the Green Bay Packers had never lost a home playoff game. Before this game, playing the Packers at Lambeau Field, in the playoffs, in cold weather, was a foregone conclusion. No more. The Mike Vick led Falcons embarrassed the Packers in a game the Packers were really never even in.
Fans may have mostly forgotten that the 2002 Packers were 12-4 and would have had the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs if they would have beaten the New York Jets in the final week of the season. After playing a fairly respectable first half that ended with the Jets leading 14-10, the Packer defense looked exhausted and collapsed in the second half, giving up 28 points to the Jets in a blowout. That loss forced the Packers to play the Falcons just six days later. The defense again looked gassed and was completely unable to contain Vick.
Making it worse for Sherman was the infamous muffed punt in the first half where replay showed that the Packers had never even touched the football. Sherman never challenged the call, and the Falcons got the ball and scored again to begin pulling away. After the game, when asked why he didn’t challenge, Sherman claimed the referee told him the play could not be reviewed, which the referee crew later denied.
2005 Season – 4-12
Unfortunately, that debacle wasn’t the only dubious franchise first that occurred during Sherman’s watch. In the disaster that was 2005, the Packers lost 12 games for the first time in their history. OUCH. In that lost-to-posterity season, the Packers were an amazing -24 in turnover differential. That means on average per game the Packers had 1.5 more turnovers than their opponent. Spearheading the march to shit was the franchise record 30 interceptions thrown in that single season. Not only did Brett Favre play like a drunken sailor on deck during a squall with a mind-numbing 29 interceptions, but his fellow HOF replacement, Aaron Rodgers added a pick to join the party as well.
I’m not sure if half the Packer roster was injured that season or just discouraged, but regardless, Ted Thompson had more than the excuse he needed to show Sherman the door and hire his own coach.
4th and 26
Just the words summon dread for Packer fans like Stalingrad used to for Germans. The 2003 season is actually also a highlight for Sherman, as the Packers made a late run to win the division for the third straight season. However, one week after Matt Hasselbeck started overtime by saying we want the football so the Packers can score, the Packers’ magical ride ended in tragedy in Philadelphia.
The Packers jumped ahead 14-0 and looked to be carrying momentum from the last week. However, leading just 17-14 with 2:30 left to go in the game, Sherman decided to punt from the Philly 41 rather than let Ahman Green try to pick up a fourth and 1 and win the game. The call appeared to work when a sack of Donovan McNabb forced the Eagles into 4th and 26 on the following possession. However, shit happens.
Sherman as GM
Mike Sherman will probably be forever known as a better coach than a GM, and if not for hubris, his career might have gone differently. Sherman is known for drafting such guys as Ahmad Carroll in the first round and an effin punter in the third round of that same draft- BJ Sander. Sherman did not make up for his weak drafts by being any better in free agency, with the bitter pill of Joe Johnson being the coupe de grace.
Regular Season Success
Mike Sherman is the fifth winningest head coach in Packer history. He was 59-43. In the six years he was coach, the Packers had a winning record five times, went to the playoffs four times, and won the division three times. His disastrous 2005 season was the first and only losing season he had.
Running the Football
Mike Sherman was not near the quarterback coach that Mike McCarthy is. However, he did pretty well with the running game. Brett Favre was an up-and-down quarterback during Sherman’s run, but when Sherman’s Packers were good was when they could run the football. Sherman built a good offensive line and had statistically the best Packers’ running back of all time in Ahman Green. In 2003, Ahman Green rushed for 1,883 yards. Not only is that a franchise record, but I don’t see that being broken any time soon.
Who’s This Fucking Guy?
As already noted, Sherman was not a good GM. However, he did make one really good trade on Draft Day in 2003 when he traded out of the second round for a fourth round pick and Al Harris, the slot corner for the Philadelphia Eagles. Harris went on to be a Pro Bowl corner for the Packers and eventually teamed with Charles Woodson to give the Packers the best tandem in the NFL.
The Packers were on the ropes at 6-6 in 2003, until they finished that season by winning their last four games. The third game in that run was a Monday Night tilt against the Oakland Raiders where spurred on by his dad’s death, Brett Favre and his receivers turned in one of the greatest halves of football in NFL history. The magical run continued into the playoffs when the Minnesota Vikings choked the final game of the season away to the hapless Arizona Cardinals, handing the Packers the division. The Packers then won their first playoff game on Al Harris’ interception for a touchdown in overtime.
The memorable run ended tragically, however, in the notorious game in Philadelphia, of which I shall speak no more.